Daniel 3 Study Notes


3:1 The events of Dn 3 probably took place shortly after Daniel explained the king’s dream (cp. Dn 2), although some estimate that it could have been ten or even twenty years later. Babylonian records indicate that there was a revolt against Nebuchadnezzar during the tenth year of his reign, so this may have led to the king’s desire for the loyalty test described here. The gold statue was not likely solid gold but was instead overlaid with it. Nebuchadnezzar probably decked the entire thing in gold to negate the message conveyed by the statue of his dream, wherein only the head was gold and signaled that the Babylonian Empire would only be temporary. The location of the plain of Dura has not been conclusively identified. Daniel was not involved in the events here since he remained in the capital city “at the king’s court” (2:49) while other officials—including his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were called to Dura to show their loyalty. Had Daniel been there he too would have refused to bow to the image.

3:2-3 The exact meaning of these seven positions is unclear other than that they are listed in descending order of rank.

3:4-5 Three of the instruments mentioned—zither . . . harp, and drum—are the only Greek loan words in Daniel. The presence of Greek words does not require that Daniel was written later in the Greek period. Even Assyrian inscriptions that predate the Babylonian period refer to Greek instruments and musicians (Archer, Daniel). Although some conjecture that the gold statue was of Nebuchadnezzar himself, this is unlikely because the Babylonians did not believe their king was divine. More likely, the image was of a Babylonian god, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar’s patron Nabu or the chief Babylonian god Marduk. Nebuchadnezzar made this demand as some form of loyalty oath to him personally.

3:6 Incineration in a furnace of blazing fire—a punishment that Nebuchadnezzar had also used on two Judean false prophets, Zedekiah and Ahab (Jr 29:22)—was a normal Babylonian penalty as seen in the Code of Hammurabi, Sections 25, 110, and 157. Perhaps this furnace was built to smelt the gold for the image Nebuchadnezzar had made.

3:7 All the people obviously did not include Daniel (who may have been exempt) and his three friends.

3:8 Chaldeans is both a general ethnic term for the Babylonian people and, as used here, a specific term for priests who served as astrologers, soothsayers, and wise men in the king’s government. Their motive in denouncing the three faithful Jewish men was not devotion to the king’s demand but rather a hatred for the Jewish people. Hatred of the Jewish people is often on display in the Bible, as with Haman (Est 3:5-6). It reflects a hatred of the God of Israel and is expressed through oppression and attempted genocide of his people (Ps 83:2-5).

3:9-16 The high point of these verses is the king’s question, “Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” God himself would provide the answer.

3:17-18 The king offered Daniel’s friends a second chance to worship the idol, but they persistently refused. The Aramaic imperfect verb yeseziv (“he can rescue”) in this context indicates possibility and not certainty. They were saying that God might deliver them or he might choose not to do so. Their faith in God did not rest on the belief that he would perform a miracle, but that their sovereign God could be trusted. They asserted that if God chose not to deliver them from this punishment but instead allowed them to become martyrs for him, they would still refuse to serve the king’s gods or worship the gold statue. This is one of the strongest examples of steadfast faith in the Bible.

3:19 The enraged king (see also 2:12; 3:13) gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, an idiom for “as hot as possible.”

3:20-22 If the fire would burn up those who carried the three men, how much more likely would it burn up the men themselves?

3:23 The furnace was built on a small hill or mound with openings at the top and side (see Miller, Daniel, NAC). So the three men fell . . . into the furnace from the top, and the king was able to see four men in the furnace (v. 25) as he looked in through the side opening.

3:24-25 The king saw in the furnace a fourth figure who looked like a son of the gods. This may have been an angel or even a preincarnate appearance of God the Son.

3:26-27 When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar and all his government officials saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men. Not only did the fire fail to burn their hair and clothing, but they did not even have the smell of fire on them. Hebrews 11:34 cites this miracle of faith, referring to those who “quenched the raging of fire.”

3:28-30 After Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were spared, Nebuchadnezzar saw that the God of Israel was greater than all other gods. Even so, he remained a worshiper of many gods, falling short of full devotion of the one and only true God.